KUCHING, May 14: Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg wants to prove his critics wrong on the development of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) system in and around Kuching city.
He said, his critics were insinuating that Kuching had no future and thus developing an LRT system for the city was a waste of money.
Abang Johari iterated that in terms of the planning, future growth and development of Kuching City, the state government is making sure that it puts in place today the groundwork for the needs of the future Kuching.
He said the city presently did not have much transportation problems but as the population has reached almost a million now, traffic congestion has been becoming quite a problem.
“Flyovers solve congestion problems at specific junctions but create new congestion areas down the road. It would appear that ultimately, one way is for us to build elevated highways in order for the smooth ride of long-distance traffic. Another way is to build an integrated public transport system based on the LRT.
“Many critics are convinced that I am wrong in building the LRT for Kuching City. I will show you that I am right because I am thinking of the future of Kuching, and they are wrong because they think Kuching has no future.
“It is a fact that Kuching will grow and grow in the future. Kuching grew from a population of 150,000 people in 1960 to 315,000 in 1980, 510,000 in 2000 and 685,000 in 2017. In the areas that are covered by the proposed LRT route, the current population is close to 1 million people,” said Abang Johari in his speech during the International Digital Economy Conference Sarawak (IDECS) 2018 at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching (BCCK) here this morning.
The proposed LRT project, to be completed by the year 2024, will be divided into three lines, namely the Kota Samarahan-Sungai Batu-Damai line (59.7km), the Serian-Siburan-Senari line (84km) and the City Dispersal Line (11km), with a total cost of about RM10.8 billion.
He explained that if the state government could make Kuching City attractive enough with good jobs, it would lead the young talented people of Kuching to stay back or come back after their education abroad, attract Sarawakians from other parts of Sarawak to live in Kuching because of good job opportunities and even attract talented young foreign people to Kuching.
Abang Johari said it was also another fact that the growth of a city was critically dependent on the number of jobs that it could create every year. If the state government wants the LRT service area to reach more than a million people in 10 years, then it needs to create 12,000 jobs a year in the area.
“If we go back 17 to 19 years ago, there were 47,500 live births in Sarawak, which means by now these young people are in the job market. Of these, about 13,500 are in Kuching. Assuming two-thirds of the Kuching young people are looking for jobs, we have to create 10,000 jobs a year.
“Potentially, Kuching City can grow by about 20,000 people a year if we consider another 10,000 people who migrate here from other parts of Sarawak, and even more, if we were to open up Sarawak to welcome young talents from abroad. There is therefore great potential for Kuching City to grow rapidly in the next 10 years if we build the city for expansion,” he said.
Abang Johari said jobs would be created by the construction of the LRT itself. He added that in preparing for the growth of the Kuching population, there must also be a planned expansion of residential and commercial units to be built in the city to cater to the development of new businesses.
He said the LRT system would therefore trigger a construction boom in Kuching and Sarawak.
“Other jobs can be created in Kuching by the development of other economic sectors, such as e-commerce, tourism, private healthcare, and private education. Critically, the digital sector itself should be creating jobs for itself whereby inventors and entrepreneurs work together to create new applications and new business models to make life easier and more enjoyable for the people while making money for themselves.
“The mushrooming of many new co-working spaces and start-up centres is a situation which I would like to see in the coming years as an indication of the vibrancy of the Kuching City entrepreneurial ecosystem. I hope that the little that the government is doing will trigger a multi-fold expansion of the private sector,” said Abang Johari. — DayakDaily